Describing Bodh Gaya as the “land of enlightenment”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said his government would develop the site as the spiritual capital for it to serve as a civilisational bond between India and the Buddhist world.
"I recognise how Buddhists all over the world revere Bodh Gaya as a place of pilgrimage. We in India would like to develop Bodh Gaya so that it can become the spiritual capital and civilisational bond between India and the Buddhist world.
"The government of India would like to provide all possible support that its Buddhist cousin nations need for the satisfaction of their spiritual needs from this holiest of holy places for them," he said after visiting Mahabodhi Temple.
Describing Buddha as a "crown jewel" of India, which accepts all ways of worship, he said he revered Buddha as a reformer of not only Hinduism but also the world, who gave a new world view and vision which is critical for survival of all.
“This quality of Hinduism in India was a product of many great spiritual masters and chief among them was Buddha. And this is what sustains the secular character of India," he said, adding that the enlightenment which Buddha attained in Bodh Gaya also lit the light of enlightenment in Hinduism.
He said he as prime minister felt good to visit the holy place after Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, noting that it was special to be in Bodh Gaya on Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna.
He said both Gautama Buddha and Lord Krishna taught the world so much, as Krishna gave his message before the start of the great war in Mahabharata and Buddha repeatedly emphasised on rising above warfare.
"The message by both of them was about establishing Dharma," he said, adding that both of them gave great prominence to principles and processes.
"Gautama Buddha gave the eight-fold path and the Panchsheel, while Shri Krishna gave invaluable lessons of life in the form of Karma Yoga. These two divine souls had the strength to bring people together, rising above differences. Their teachings are most practical, eternal and are more relevant in this day and age than ever before," he said.
Talking of the two-day Hindu Buddhist Conference on Conflict Avoidance and Environmental Consciousness that concluded in Delhi, Modi said, the themes of this conference in a way was inspired by values and ideals given by these two greats.
"This, in my view, is a positive turn in the development modelling of the world of diversity...I personally consider the Hindu Buddhist Conference on Conflict Avoidance and Environmental Consciousness as an important development in a world that seems to be short of durable ideas on both issues.
"This conference has raised a hope and urge to go beyond clash and create a dialogue framework for civilisational harmony and world peace," he said, noting that many Hindu scholars have praised Buddha.
"Buddha gave to the world a complete system of morality, he was a great teacher of equality," Modi said, as he descried Bodh Gaya as "the land of enlightenment".
"Years ago, what Bodh Gaya got was Siddhartha but what Bodh Gaya gave to the world was Lord Buddha, the epitome of knowledge, peace and compassion," he said.
The prime minister said the turn in thinking at the global level has created the eco-system for the Hindu-Buddhist societies to carry forward their consensual ideas to the global for a and wished the wisdom reaches future generations in such a manner that they practically relate to it.
He said the conference was conceptualised on shifting the paradigm from conflict resolution to conflict avoidance and from environmental regulation to environmental consciousness.
"This is an extraordinary development which coincides with rise of Asia as an economic and civilisational phenomenon," he said, adding that the conference themes promise to deepen the notion of conflict avoidance philosophy and environmental consciousness in Asia and beyond.
The prime minister noted that the conference seems to have arrived at a broad consensus on both issues.
While on the issue of conflicts, most of which are being driven by religious intolerance, he said, the participants in the conference seem to have agreed that while there is no problem about the freedom to practise one's religion, it is when the radical elements try to force their own ideologies on others, that the potential for conflict arises.
On the issue of environment, Modi said, the conference seems to have agreed that the philosophic underpinning of Dharma, which stresses the protection of natural heritage, is critical for sustainable development.
Modi said the United Nations has come to a view that sustainable development is achievable only through aligning development to the local culture of the people.
He said he had shared his thoughts on the two critical themes which threaten humanity as no other challenge before and recalled how in both contexts the world is looking to Buddha as conflict resolution mechanisms and environmental regulations.
The prime minister said it was also a special day as India observed Teachers Day to commemorate birth anniversary of former president and teacher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and Buddha was one of the most impactful teachers whose teachings inspired millions of people over centuries.
He also the cited the sayings of Swami Vivekananda in his speech.
He also inaugurated an exhibition "Chetiya Carika: The Pilgrimage and Quest for Truth". His visit coincided with the Global Hindu Buddhist Initiative, whose delegates were present at Bodh Gaya.